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Opinion 8.07 - Expedited Partner Therapy

Expedited Partner Therapy (EPT) is the practice of treating the sex partners of patients with sexually transmitted diseases via patient-delivered partner therapy without the partner receiving a medical evaluation or professional prevention counseling. While this practice is presently recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for use in very limited circumstances (for gonorrhea or chlamydial infection in heterosexual men and women), EPT may be recommended for additional applications in the future.

Although EPT has been demonstrated to be effective at reducing the burden of certain diseases, it also has ethical implications. EPT potentially abrogates the standard informed consent process, compromises continuity of care for patients' partners, encroaches upon the privacy of patients and their partners, increases the possibility of harm by a medical or allergic reaction, leaves other diseases or complications undiagnosed, and may violate state practice laws. The following guidelines are offered for use in establishing whether EPT is appropriate:

(1) Physicians should determine the need for EPT by engaging in open discussions with patients to ascertain their partners' abilities to access medical services. Only if the physician reasonably believes that a patient’s partner(s) will be unwilling or unable to seek treatment within the context of a traditional patient-physician relationship should the use of EPT be considered.

(2) Prior to initiating EPT, physicians are advised to seek the guidance of public health officials, as well as determine the legal status of EPT in their state.

(3) If the physician chooses to initiate EPT, he or she must provide patients with appropriate instructions regarding EPT and its accompanying medications and answers to any questions that they may have.

(4) Physicians must provide patients with educational material to share with their partners that encourages the partners to consult a physician as a preferred alternative to EPT, and that discloses the risk of potential adverse drug reactions and the possibility of dangerous interactions between the patient-delivered therapy and other medications that the partner may be taking. The partner should also be informed that he or she may be affected by other STDs that may be left untreated by the delivered medicine.

(5) The treating physician should also make reasonable efforts to refer a patient's partner(s) to appropriate health care professionals.(VII)

Issued November 2008 based on the report "Expedited Partner Therapy," adopted June 2008.